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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Into the Rift

A while back, I did a short piece on the Oculus Rift immersive 3D virtual reality headset.  This device is still in development, but it's come a long way, so today we'll do a short update.

For those who've never heard of Oculus Rift, it's a device conceived by a young man, Palmer Lucky, and initially funded with a Kickstarter crowdsource funding campaign.  Everyone who has tried the prototypes absolutely raves about the total immersive experience the Rift provides.  You turn your head to look around you, and the headset senses that and changes the view.  You feel as if you are actually "inside" the on-screen reality.

This has really got the gaming community excited.  Big names like John Carmack (formerly of ID Software, and author of the hugely popular DOOM games) and Elon Musk are jumping on board the Rift bandwagon.  Carmack recently took a position as OculusVR's Chief Technical Officer, and has left ID to devote himself full time to the new technology.

There is even at least one game that was developed from the start to use the Rift...it's a space dogfighting simulator based on Eve Online, called EVR.

The problem with using the Rift for Second Life is that Second Life has a lot of keyboard, mouse and menu controls.  When you're wearing the headset, you can't see your keyboard...how can we use SL if we can't see to hit combinations like CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+9?  If we display the chat window, inventory window, and all those other windows as an overlay to the virtual reality, won't that mess up our immersion?  Can other devices, like the Kinect sensors, be used to sense our body position and transfer that to our avatar in world?  Could the hand and gesture-sensing LEAP Motion device be used to let us "pick up" and manipulate objects in Second Life?

What's needed to use the Rift with Second Life is a new User Interface.  Linden Lab has been working on one, but as usual, they're taking their sweet time about it.  So David Rowe has come up with a viewer that has support for the Oculus Rift.  You can find his blog, and download the experimental viewer, at his website http://ctrlaltstudio.com/

Oh...and you can get a developer version of Oculus Rift at http://www.oculusvr.com/

This stuff is definitely NOT yet ready for the masses.  Neither Oculus Rift or the CtrlAltStudio viewer are fully developed products, they are both very much still in the experimental stages.  But if you like tinkering at the very bleeding edge of technology, if writing code doesn't faze you...you might find that you've become the next Internet gazillionaire.

As for me, I'll wait for the commercial releases...but I'm really excited!

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